The Meaning of the Child Interview: A new procedure for assessing and understanding parent–child relationships of ‘at-risk’ families

Ben Grey, Stephen Farnfield

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Reder and Duncan’s well-known studies of the 1990s on fatal child abuse drew attention to how parental scripts regarding their children could dangerously distort relationships in ways that were sometimes fatal to children. This article reports on a new system for assessing the ‘meaning of the child to the parent’, called the Meaning of the Child Interview (MotC). Parents are interviewed using the established Parent Development Interview, or equivalent, and the transcript of the interview is then analysed according to parental sensitivity and likely risk to the child. The MotC constructs were developed from those used in observed parent–child interaction (specifically, the CARE-Index) and the form of discourse analysis used in the Dynamic Maturational Model – Adult Attachment Interview, allowing a more systemic and inter-subjective understanding of parenting representations than often put forward. This article discusses the theoretical background to the MotC, gives a brief review of similar measures and then introduces the coding system and patterns of caregiving. The validity of the MotC is addressed elsewhere.

© 2016, SAGE. This is an author produced version of a paper published in CLINICAL CHILD PSYCHOLOGY AND PSYCHIATRY uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self- archiving policy. The final published version (version of record) is available online at the link below. Some minor differences between this version and the final published version may remain. We suggest you refer to the final published version should you wish to cite from it.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)204-218
Number of pages14
JournalClinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry
Issue number2
Early online date2 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2 Mar 2016


  • Attachment, parent–child relationships, Meaning of the Child Interview, parental sensitivity, family risk assessment, reflective functioning, inter-subjectivity

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